Broken flirt new adult r.., p.5

Broken: Flirt New Adult Romance, page 5

 

Broken: Flirt New Adult Romance
 


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  “Get out,” he says, mouth barely moving.

  I lick my lips nervously, noting the way his eyes follow the motion of my tongue, and I finally accept that in spite of myself—in spite of the fear—I’m ridiculously attracted to him. Attracted in a fierce, animalistic way that I’ve never felt ever.

  I found Ethan attractive, of course. I mean, we dated for like half of my life. And Michael . . . I don’t want to think about Michael.

  But nothing in my limited sexual experience compares to the magnetic pull this guy has on me.

  I ignore his demand that I leave him alone.

  “Can I get you anything?” I ask, as though he hasn’t banished me from the room. “A cup of soothing tea? A turkey sandwich? Maybe sunglasses to protect yourself from all that happy sunshine you’re exuding?”

  His eyes flash again, this time in puzzlement. I give him a fake-sympathetic smile and pat his arm. “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. Were your bear growl and caveman antics supposed to send me running away? Did you expect that I’d faint at your glower?”

  He opens his mouth, probably to bellow at me again, but I simply lay a finger over his lips the way one would hush a petulant child, even though this bold, tough-girl routine is as foreign to me as it is to Paul.

  But I’m apparently not the only one who can do the unexpected, because instead of pushing me back or turning away, his fingers curl around my wrist until he’s grasping my arm hard enough to hurt. Without warning, his tongue flicks over the tips of my fingers, and I gasp, trying to snatch my hand back from the sweetly erotic stroke.

  He’s toying with me.

  I know it’s only manipulation, of course, but damned if I’m not turned on by this sick game I’m playing with a totally messed-up guy I don’t even know.

  Both of us are breathing too fast, and I feel a surge of panic.

  It was never like this with Ethan. That was always comfortable and easy. It wasn’t like this with Michael, either. That was simply forbidden. It was an escape, and a transgression I continue to pay for.

  Paul’s eyes continue to hold mine until very slowly he releases my hand and pushes me back. “You’re clearly incredibly stupid, in addition to being bitchy, so let me be more clear. Get the fuck out of my home. I don’t want you here.”

  I shrug, taking a step toward him, and feel oddly gratified when he takes a step back in response. “I’ll leave,” I say in a low voice, my eyes never leaving his. Surprise flicks over his half-handsome, half-contorted features, and I press on. “Yup, I’ll leave.”

  He narrows his eyes “What’s the catch? Double your pay?” he asks with a sneer.

  “No. I’ll leave. In three months, as agreed.” I lean in just a little, letting my eyes focus on his mouth. “Better get used to me.”

  I make it as far as the door before I realize my mistake. No, Paul makes me realize my mistake.

  He grabs my wrist a second before pushing me back roughly. My shoulder blades hit the door a half second before his mouth descends on mine—hard. I let out a startled yelp, my nails digging into firm, broad shoulders that feel like granite beneath my hands. His leg might be damaged, but his upper body is most certainly not.

  This kiss isn’t about want, and it’s definitely not about romance.

  This kiss is about power. He’s trying to scare me off.

  I’ve never really thought of myself as having a temper, but something about this guy has definitely set it off. Anger flares, and I sink my teeth into his bottom lip. Not hard enough to draw blood, but definitely hard enough to tell him to back off.

  But instead of releasing me, he growls and moves closer, pinning me against the door with his body as his tongue slips into my mouth.

  Oh wow.

  My fingers tighten again on his shoulders, and it’s not to push him away. It’s like some dark, savage part of me is released by the taste of him, and instead of wriggling away and slapping him, I do the unthinkable. I kiss him back.

  He freezes for a moment when my tongue shyly touches his, and he starts to pull back, but my hands go to the back of his head and pull him to me. When our lips meet again, it’s an all-out battle as our tongues tangle, each trying to take control. We’re like two sex-starved animals who need each other to survive.

  It’s ridiculous. It’s wrong.

  And I don’t want it to stop.

  It’s only the vibration of Paul’s phone that has us jerking back, staring at each other in bewildered confusion. I raise a shaky hand to my lips before I catch how vulnerable the gesture is, and instead lift my chin and give him a defiant look.

  His eyes rake over my body. “Get out.”

  I give him a condescending look. “Please. If I ran away from every tepid, boyish kiss, I’d never have made it past junior high.”

  I walk away from his enraged scowl, confident I’ve won this battle, but at a very, very high cost. Because I have a serious lady boner for the guy I’m supposed to work for.

  CHAPTER SIX

  Paul

  I wish she’d give the door a pissy slam, but instead it shuts behind her with a quiet, dignified click. I tell myself her departure from the room is dripping with self-righteous melodrama.

  My hands make fists, although I’m not sure if it’s with the urge to punch a wall or the urge to chase after her, sink my fingers into her hair, and pull her mouth to mine. Again.

  It’s that second urge—and the memory of that kiss—that enrages me.

  That went wrong. All wrong. I’d meant only to scare her off, the big ugly brute making a move, and instead she responded like a cat in heat. She responded like she wanted me. Which obviously was only part of her game, but . . . for a second I wanted her to want me.

  This girl is toxic. I’ll play nice with one of my dad’s caretakers, but it’s not going to be her. Anyone but her. I’ll take a doddering old lady, a smug Bible-thumper, even a cranky tyrant, but I won’t spend every day with a girl who reminds me of what I can’t have.

  A girl I can’t stop picturing above me, beneath me . . .

  Christ.

  I thought she was enough of a temptation when I’d only gotten a brief glimpse of her. But seeing her up close? She’s even more gorgeous than I realized. The threat is more than just that, though. She’s also bold, irreverent, and brave. That combination is even more alluring than the wide green eyes and that long, lean body.

  How long has it been since someone’s gone toe-to-toe with me? How long since someone refused to defer to my “condition”?

  And that moment when she looked at my scars—really looked at them . . . If she’d gone sympathetic or horrified, I could have dealt with it. I’d been prepared for it. But that sort of frank acknowledgment? That blunt recognition of Yeah, you’ve got an ugly face? It was oddly intriguing.

  And that I can’t deal with.

  I grab my phone. My father picks up on the second ring.

  “Find a new one,” I say, by way of greeting.

  He doesn’t pretend to misunderstand. “You’ve been through all of the ‘new ones,’ Paul. I’ve already told you there’s not a limitless supply of people trained in taking care of invalids.”

  Normally I hate the word invalid, but that’s not the part that rubs me the wrong way this time. “Trained? You’re honestly trying to tell me that this schoolgirl you sent out here is trained in anything other than manicures?”

  His silence tells me I’m right. “Okay, I never said she was trained. But she’ll do for what you need.”

  “Which is what, wiping my ass?”

  “Company,” my dad growls. “Someone to make you human.”

  My head snaps back a little at his words. He’s right, of course. I’m not human. But hearing it from your own father is . . .

  I start to hang up, but my dad’s apologetic sigh stops me. “You know the deal, Paul.”

  “Yup. Hard to forget my own dad throwing me out of the house.”

  “You’re twenty-four. Quit making it sound like you’re a defense
less child.”

  “Your paternal gentleness is overwhelming. And I’m not backing out of our deal; I’m just telling you to find a different caretaker.” One who doesn’t turn me on.

  “No.” His succinct refusal isn’t a good sign.

  “I’m not backing out on the deal,” I repeat, keeping my voice carefully level. “I’m just asking to work with someone who doesn’t look like an extra on an after-school special.”

  “It’s Olivia or no one.”

  Olivia. Did I know her name before now? We certainly didn’t introduce ourselves during all that heated staring, and if my father mentioned her name before, I didn’t bother to register it. The name suits her.

  In spite of myself, I wonder what her story is. Has she done this before? Has she helped some other pathetic, damaged loser go about the tricky business of living? It seems a waste, somehow. A girl like that wasting her time on the dregs of society.

  “This conversation is over, Paul,” Dad says. “It’s three months with her, or the deal’s off. You lost the right to be picky sometime around running off the sixth person I sent out there.”

  I sink into the desk chair. My leg is killing me, although it’s nothing compared to the pressure in my chest at the finality in my father’s tone.

  “She’s young, Dad,” I say, hating the desperation I hear in my own voice. “About my age.”

  “And?”

  God, is he really so clueless? Heartless?

  “She just . . . she’s too much like someone I would have hung out with . . . before.” Hell, she’s like someone I might have dated.

  “Well, maybe that’s a good thing, Paul.” His voice sounds tired. “It would do you some good to remember that even though you don’t look the same or move the same, you’re still the same person.”

  Except I’m not. Not even close. The worst of my scars aren’t the ones I see in the mirror, and just once I wish the old bastard would try to understand that.

  “I’m not spending the next three months with her. There’s no way.”

  “Fine. I’ll tell Lindy and Mick to start packing your bags.”

  I close my eyes and slump back against the chair, getting a little desperate. “I swear to God, whoever you send next, I’ll welcome them. Anyone but her.”

  He’s silent, and for one hopeful second I think he’s going to relent. Then he repeats: “It’s her or no one.”

  “Goddamn it!” I explode.

  “I’ve got to go—I’m already late to a meeting with the board.”

  Of course. The man eats, breathes, and shits his work.

  Think about Lily. Think about Amanda. Do it for Alex.

  “Fine,” I mutter, hating myself for sounding like a petulant child, but I draw the line at pretending I’m okay with his manipulation.

  “I’ll call you on Sunday,” he says.

  I start to hang up the phone, but his voice halts me.

  “Paul?”

  I don’t respond, but neither do I disconnect.

  “It’ll be okay, son. You’ll see.”

  Bull-fucking-shit.

  But he’s already gone before I can tell him that I gave up on things being okay a long time ago.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  Olivia

  I stomp out of Paul’s creepy depression cave with my head held high, but as soon as the door shuts, I round the corner and slump against the wall, trying to gather my thoughts.

  I’m immediately regretting my uncharacteristic burst of . . . well, actually, I have no idea what that burst was. I’d like to think it was me being bold and noble—following through with my commitments, or something virtuous like that.

  But the truth is, everything about Paul Langdon plain pisses me off and I lost my temper. I didn’t even know I had a temper.

  I find my way back into the kitchen and find Lindy covered up to her elbows in flour. “What are you making?” I ask before she can inquire about my disastrous encounter with Paul.

  She gives me a curious look. “What does it look like?”

  I eye the beige blob she’s flopping around on the granite countertop. “Pizza dough?” I ask, her motions reminding me of watching the guys behind the counter at Grimaldi’s.

  Lindy gives me a little half smile. “I make that too. But this will just be good old-fashioned bread.”

  “Oh,” I say, feeling stupid. Of course it’s bread. It’s just that bread in the Middleton household means stopping by a local bakery or the Italian market down in the Flatiron District. I watch Lindy punch the dough around for several moments, and though her movements are rhythmic and soothing, they do nothing to calm my racing brain.

  “You want to talk about it?” she asks, not looking up.

  “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

  “He does tend to have that effect on people. They come in expecting to feel sympathetic but walk away wanting to strangle him.”

  “That about sums it up,” I say, tracing a finger through the flour dusting the counter.

  “But you’re staying?” she asks.

  I press my lips together as I consider. I don’t want to stay. I want to scream for Mick at the top of my lungs and hightail it back to Manhattan, where people buy bread, and where it’s not so freaking quiet, and where crippled war vets don’t have sexy blue eyes and shitty attitudes.

  But then I picture Paul’s smug condescension as he stared down at me from that ravaged, once-gorgeous face. He knew I would feel this way. Heck, he’s made sure that there’s nothing to hold me here. It’s as though he saw right through my plan to swoop in here like a saintly guardian angel in order to absolve my own sins, and he’s telling me he isn’t going to play.

  Clearly getting forgiveness isn’t going to be as simple as ladling soup into a weary, appreciative soul’s mouth.

  Lindy gives another of those half smiles that she seems to have in endless supply. It’s a smile that says, Life sucks, but it’s always worth living. “Most people don’t admit how frustrating he is,” she is. “Most of them pretend he’s an absolute dear and claim they’re the one who can fix him. Although sometimes they don’t bother to pretend. They just leave within minutes of meeting him.”

  “Can’t say I blame them,” I say, pushing away from the counter. “But it just so happens I have nowhere else to be. And I’m also probably not the right person to help him, but then I don’t know if there is such a thing when you’re dealing with him.”

  “Well then.” Lindy gives the dough a satisfied pat before wiping her hands on a dish towel. “I’ll show you to your room.”

  The upstairs of the house is as vast and grand as the downstairs, but its emptiness is a little unnerving. I follow Lindy down a long series of hardwood hallways, noting that we pass a half dozen bedrooms, not one of which seems to be in use. Of course, they wouldn’t be: Paul’s father doesn’t live here, and I’m assuming Mick and Lindy live in the nearby staff house, wherever that is. Which means it’s just me and Paul. Alone.

  The thought should be terrifying, and it is. But then I remember my reaction to him . . . that pure, undiluted surge of attraction, and now I’m agitated on top of being nervous as hell.

  “Here we go,” Lindy says, stopping at a room on the left at the end of the hall. “It’s not the biggest of the guest rooms, but the view’s the best in the house. Other than the master suite, of course.”

  “Is the master suite where Paul’s father sleeps when he comes?” I ask, stepping into the room.

  “Mr. Langdon rarely stays the night,” Lindy says quietly. “When he does, it’s in a guest room as far from Paul as he can get. It’s the only way they can keep the peace.”

  “How wonderfully dysfunctional,” I mutter.

  But as I take in my new bedroom, I temporarily forget all about the Langdons’ issues, because the room looks like something out of a luxury resort. The bed is huge, its bedding a pristine white save for the fur blanket draped across the foot of the bed. The furniture is all natural wood and has that sor
t of oversized one-of-a-kind quality look that makes me think it was made locally instead of created in bulk and distributed to thousands of households.

  There’s a large desk in one corner, a reading chair in another, but the star of the room is the massive windows overlooking the water. “Wow,” I whisper.

  “See, we do have a few things New York City doesn’t,” Lindy says, not bothering to hide the pride in her voice. “Frenchman Bay is one of them.”

  I can’t argue. I’ve seen plenty of gorgeous views on summer vacations and spring break trips, but this ranks up there with the best of them because it’s unexpected. It’s nearly dark now, but it only adds to the appeal of the shadowy water. I imagine in the bright sunlight it would be postcard worthy.

  “Bathroom’s through there,” Lindy says, gesturing to the door opposite the window. “I put in fresh towels, and there’s a small fridge next to the closet with water and a few snacks. I cook three meals a day. Nothing fancy, so if you need anything in between, or anything else, you’re on your own.”

  “Sounds great,” I say, giving her a small smile. “Although I’m not really hungry when I travel, so I’m good for tonight.”

  I haven’t eaten since breakfast save for the pretzels on the short plane flight, but my appetite has definitely deserted me for the moment. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve somehow gotten myself into the mother of all disasters.

  “For meals, do the caretakers usually eat with Paul?” I ask.

  Lindy’s lips press together for a moment. “No. He takes most all of his meals in the study, some in his bedroom. You are of course welcome to eat with Mick and me at any time, although we tend to eat in the small house.”

  She says it in that way people have of not really expecting you to take them up on the offer, and I admit I’m a little depressed by the fact that I’m apparently expected to eat by myself. My family has always made a big deal about sharing meals, so the thought of four people living in one home and eating separately seems strange.

  Then again, eating alone seems a lot less strange than sharing a meal with Paul. As if he’d even allow it, especially after the way I behaved. Although, oddly, I still don’t regret my over-the-top rudeness. It was worth it for the sheer surprise on his face. And something tells me that surprise is the only thing I’ll have going for me if I want to have any chance of keeping the upper hand.

 
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